Left Luggage

The socialist strategy site

Total victory?

Posted by Left Luggage on June 26, 2009

Striking workers at the Lindsey Oil Refinery, in Lincolnshire, and those construction workers at sites around the country appear to have won a stunning victory. News reports suggest that energy giant Total has backed down after its sub-contracting firms sacked 647 of the Lindsey workers on last Friday. According to the reports, unions Unite and the GMB have also secured assurances that the 51 workers who were made redundant, sparking the wave of wildcat strikes across the country, “will also be offered the chance to return to work”. Furthermore:

Unions have also won assurances that thousands of contract workers at power plants, refineries and gas terminals across Britain who also walked out in sympathy will not be victimised for their actions.

The proposed deal will be put to workers on Monday and while we haven’t seen the finer details, this appears to be a massive victory for the workers and a humbling climbdown by Total. The two-week long wildcat strike at Lindsey alone is estimated to have cost Total €100m (£85m) and, according to the company, “had put major investment into the building of its HDS-3 desulphurisation unit at risk.

Additionally, as Left Luggage has previously written, the initial laying-off of 51 workers seemed a clear-cut attempt by Total to force out militant workers and to kill-off the solidarity strike as an effective tool, possibly by deliberately provoking a walkout. Gregor Gall has pointed out that Total seemed to have selected for redundancy those workers who played a key role in the February strikes over the use of sub-contractors bringing in foreign workforces. Apparently, bosses at the site said the 51 workers would not be redepolyed because they were “an unruly workforce who had taken part in unofficial disputes and who won’t work weekends.” Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary, said: “This is a clear case of victimisation on a par with the notorious industry blacklists.”

Right now, this looks like a huge victory for the Lindsey workers. What’s more it demonstrates once again – to workers at Lindsey, the others sites that took action, and to the wider labour movement – the effectiveness of solidarity strikes and the use of flying pickets. Both very important lessons.

Some of the workers have now lost two weeks wages through the solidarity strike, and contributions to the hardship fund are still necessary.

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One Response to “Total victory?”

  1. davidbroder said

    Gregor has written a further piece highlighting the importance of the strikers’ success but also the underlying problems in the industry – http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/engineering-construction-strikes-days-of-defiance/

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